The following letter was sent to Dan Cherry, president of the Inter-Modal
Transportation Authority, on August 4, 2001. It was written in response to
Mr. Cherry's public comments in which he claimed that there is no evidence
that groundwater in the Sinkhole Plain of south-central Kentucky can flow
into Mammoth Cave National Park. This issue is significant because opponents
of the proposed Kentucky Tri-Modal Transpark believe that the project will
pollute the groundwater and cause irreparable harm to the national park and
its wildlife. This letter was signed by 18 leading karst geologists and
biologists, many of whom have studied the Sinkhole Plain extensively.
Mr. Dan Cherry
Dear Mr. Cherry:
The controversy about whether the Graham Spring hydrologic drainage basin spills over into the Mammoth Cave drainage basin needs to be resolved before going ahead with the irreversible land acquisition for the KTT (Kentucky Trimodal Transpark) that your organization is planning to develop on the 4000 acre "Yellow Site" near Oakland, KY, six miles from Mammoth Cave National Park.
If the Graham Spring drainage basin spills over into the Mammoth Cave basin, the groundwater and its biota of Mammoth Cave National Park will be at risk in the event of pollution by spills or seepage from the industrial park and airport. Mammoth Cave National Park is a World Heritage Site, part of the International Biosphere Preserve, and a unique natural treasure. It is without question a valuable national resource that must be protected. Also, it is a regional economic resource that contributes an estimated $100 million per year to the south central Kentucky economy.
You are reported as believing that underground drainage basin spillover is a "theory" and that "no significant evidence exists" to support spillover. The news story about your view appeared in the Bowling Green Daily News of July 20, 2001.
We, the undersigned, are karst scientists in the field of hydrology, geology, or biology. We are familiar with the scientific literature of underground stream tracing , and are generally familiar with the hydrology of the Sinkhole Plain and Mammoth Cave region. We have carried out field studies in karst areas and have evaluated the evidence of studies by other workers.
Four specific pieces of evidence support the drainage basin spillover conclusion. These are:
"With more than 160 ft of depth to the water table around the Oakland site, contaminated water could travel down the local dip (less than 0.5 degree) with a horizontal component as much as 20,000 feet. This is roughly equivalent to the estimated distance to the northern limit of the Graham Spring basin. In other words, contaminated seepage could cross over the rather uncertain divides between basins. Although it is unlikely that such seepage could enter the Mammoth Cave drainage in this way, it has been amply noted by Park Service hydrologists that the divides shift with stage - i.e. the low flow divides do not coincide with those at higher flow levels. Stating that the drainage from the Oakland site is confined to the Graham Spring basin is not appropriate without further dye traces at a variety of flow stages."
Based on our understanding of the evidence, it is certain that hydrologic communication does take place between the basin in which the KTT is sited and an important Mammoth Cave National Park groundwater basin. What is NOT certain are the conditions under which spillover and seepage will occur and the extent of probable risk. Mammoth Cave National Park is too valuable to allow speculation about this issue to remain unresolved.
You are on record in "The Meeting Place" of April 12-26, p 3 as saying about the Transpark, "We enter each phase of this with an open mind. If a credible environmental study were done that said we shouldn't build this type of facility on this particular location we wouldn't do it. It's just that simple."
Therefore, we strongly urge that the ITA undertake a comprehensive, professional, hypothesis-based investigation of the circumstances and characteristics of groundwater movement in the area between the KTT and Mammoth Cave National Park to put all doubt and conjecture to rest . We understand the FAA requires a full-fledged EIS study before proceeding, and that the ITA has agreed to conduct such a study. The rigorous hydrological assessment using piezometric methods, storm pulse data, and modeling of high and low stage scenarios as described in this letter must be a part of that study.
John E. Mylroie, Professor of Geology, Miss. State Univ., (Professional Geologist # 169)
Geary Schindel, Chief Technical Officer, Edwards Aquifer Authority
Ernst H. Kastning, Professor of Geology, Radford University
Tim Schafstall, Project Geologist, U.S. Army
Joseph H. Fagan, Karst Protection Specialist, Virginia Dept. of Conservation & Recreation
William B. White, Professor of Geochemistry, Penn. State University
David Jagnow, Consulting Geologist
Jake Turin, PhD, Hydrologist, Los Alamos National Laboratory
James C. Currens, KY Registered Geologist # 0905
George Veni, PhD. Hydrologist, George Veni & Associates
Robin Cooper, PhD, Biologist, Dept. of Biology, University of Kentucky
Michael T. May, PhD, Prof. Geologist, Asst. Prof. Of Geology, Dept. of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University
Christopher G. Groves, PhD, Assoc. Prof. Of Geography, Dept. of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University
Kenneth Kuehn, PhD, Prof. Of Geology, Dept. of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University
Ouida W. Meier, PhD, Adj. Asst. Prof. Of Biology, Database Mgr. , Center for Water Resources Studies, Dept. of Biology, Western Kentucky University
Albert J. Meier, PhD, Asst. Prof. Of Biology, Dept. of Biology, Western Kentucky University
Thomas J. Poulson, PhD, Professor Emeritus in Biological Scientists, University of Illinois-Chicago, Professor in the Honors College, Florida Atlantic University, 318 Marlberry Ct., Jupiter, FL, 33458-2850, Signed separately
Arthur N. Palmer, PhD, Director, Water Resources Program, State University of New York at Oneonta, S.U.N.Y. Distinguished Teaching Professor (hydrology, geochemistry, geophysics) Signed separately